EXTRACTIONS FROM ELEVENTH ANNUAL REPORT OF THE BUREAU OF ETHNOLOGY TO THE SECRETARY OF THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, 1889-'90.
BY J. W. POWELL (DIRECTOR).
ETHNOLOGY OF THE UNGAVA DISTRICT, HUDSON BAY TERRITORY.
BY. LUCIEN M. TURNER (EDITED BY JOHN MURDOCK).
Ungava bay is on the northern coast of old Labrador—the last great bight of the strait between the ocean and the mouth of Hudson bay. Its chief affluent is Koksoak or South river, which is several hundred miles long and takes its rise in a picturesque festoonery of lakes looped through the high-lands half way down to Quebec. . .
Fort Chimo is the chief trading station of the Ungava district. The Ungava district proper is the area embraced by the watershed whose outflow drains into Ungava bay. The eastern boundary is formed by the foothills on the west side of the coast range, which is the western limit of Labrador. This range has a trend northwest and south-east to latitude 60°, where it makes a somewhat abrupt angle and pursues a nearly north course, terminating with Cape Chidley and the Buttons, the latter a low group of islets some 7 miles north of the cape. The southern boundary is the “ Height of Land,” near latitude 55°. This region is estimated to be from 1,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. The greater portion of it is comparatively level, and on its surface are innumerable lakes of various sizes, some of which are quite large. The western boundary is not so well known in the southern part of the region, as it has been seldom traversed. It seems to be a high elevation extending toward the north-northwest, as numerous streams run from the southwest and west toward the central or Koksoak valley. Eskimo who have traversed the region many times report that the elevated land abruptly ends near 58° 30´, and that there is formed a wide swampy tract, estimated to be about 80 miles wide, which opens to the northeast and southwest. The north-western portion of the district is a great area abounding in abrupt hills and precipitous mountains of various heights. These heights, estimated to range
no higher than 2,600 feet terminate abruptly on the western end of the strait, and the numerous islands in that portion of the water are, doubtless, peaks of this same range continuing to the northwest.
It will be thus seen that the district of Ungava is high amphitheatre opening to the north. The interior of the district is excessively vaned by ridges and spurs of greater or less elevation. The farther south one travels. the higher and more irregularly disposed are the hills and mountains. These spurs are usually parallel to the main ranges, although isolated spurs occur which extend at right angles to the main range. The tops of the higher elevations are covered with snow for the entire year. The summits of the lower ones are shrouded with snow as early as the 1st of September, and by the 1st of October the snow line descends nearly to their bases. The lower lands are full of swampy tracts, lakes, and ponds. . .
The marine mammals alone appear to be well known, but the number of cetaceans can certainly be increased above the number usually reported inhabiting the waters immediately bordering upon the region.
The phocids are best known for the reason that off the shores of southeast Labrador the pursuit of species of this family is carried on each spring to an extent probably surpassing that anywhere else on the face of the globe.
At the mouth of Little Whale river, the white whale is taken to the number of 500 each year, although the capture is steadily decreasing. The Indians here do the greater part of the labor of driving, killing, flaying and preserving them. At Fort Chimo another station for the pursuit of white whales is carried on. Here the Eskimo do the driving and killing, while the Indians perform the labor of removing the blubber and rendering it fit for the oil tanks into which it is placed to put it beyond the action of the weather. The skin of the white whale is tanned and converted into a leather of remarkably good quality, especially noted for being nearly waterproof.
Of the land mammals, the reindeer is probably the most abundant of all. It is found in immense numbers in certain localities, and forms for many of the inhabitants the principal source of subsistence, while to nearly all the residents its skins are absolutely necessary to protect them from the severity of the winter.
The black, white and brown bears are common enough in their respective areas. The former rarely ranges beyond the woodlands, never being found so far north as Fort Chimo. The white bear is common in the northern portions bordering the sea and is occasionally found as far south as the strait of Belle-isle, to which it has been carried on icebergs or fields of ice. Akpatok island and the vicinity of Cape Chidley are reported to be localities infested with these brutes. The brown or barren-ground bear appears to be restricted to a narrow area and is not plentiful, yet is common enough to keep the Indian in wholesome dread of its vicious disposition when enraged.
The smaller mammals occur in greater or less abundance according to the quality and quantity of food to be obtained. The wolves, foxes, and wolverines are pretty evenly distributed throughout the region. The hares are found in the wooded tracts for the smaller species and on the barren regions for the larger species. .
THE NATIVE INHABITANTS OF THE COUNTRY — GENERAL SKETCH.
The northern portions of the coast of the region under consideration are inhabited by the Eskimo, who designate themselves, as usual, by the term “ Innuit,” people (plural of innuls, “a person ”). That they have been much modified by contact with the whites is not to be doubted, and it is equally certain that their language is constantly undergoing modifications to suit the purposes of the missionary and trader, who, not being able to pronounce the difficult gutteral speech of these people, require them to conform to their own pronunciation. The region inhabited by the Innuit is strictly littoral. Their distribution falls properly into three sub-divisions, due to the three subtribal distinctions which they maintain among themselves. The first sub-division embraces all the Innuit dwelling on the Labrador coast proper and along the south side of Hudson strait to the mouth of Leaf river, which flows into Ungava Bay.
These people apply the term Su hi ni myut to themselves and are thus known by the other sub-divisions. This term is derived from Su hi nuk, the sun, and the latter part of the word, meaning people (literally “ those that dwell at or in”) ; hence, people of the sun, sunny side, because the sun shines on them first. At the present time these people are confined to the seashore and the adjacent islands, to which they repair for seals and other food. South of Hamilton inlet I could learn of but one of these people.
The Innuit of pure blood do not begin to appear until the missionary station of Hopedale is reached. Here a number of families dwell, although mostly at the instigation of the missionaries. Between this station and Hebron are several other Moravian missionary stations, at each of which dwell a greater or less number of pure Innuit. North of Hebron to Cape Chidley there are but few families, some seven in all, embracing a population of less than 40 souls. On the west side of Cape Chidley, as far as the mouth of George's river, only about eight families live. These with the George's river Innuit comprise less than 50 individuals. There is a stretch of coast bordering Ungava bay, from George's river to the Koksoak river, which is uninhabited.
The Koksoak river people include only four or five families and number less than 30 souls. The next people are those dwelling at the mouth of Leaf river, but they are more properly to be considered under the next subdivision.
The exact number of the Suhinimyut could not be definitely determined.
They are subdivided into a number of small communities, each bearing a name compounded of the name of their home and myut, “the people of.”
The inhabitants of Cape Chidley are known as Ki lin ig myut, from the word ki lin ik, wounded, cut, incised, lacerated; hence, serrated, on account of the character of the rough rocks and mountains.
The natives of George's river are known as Kan gukluá luksoagmyut; those of the Koksoak river are known as Koksoagmyut.
The second subdivision includes the Innuit dwelling on the area lying between the mouth of the Leaf river, thence northward, and along the south side of Hudson strait. Their western and southern limit extends to about latitude 60°.
These Innuit are known by the other subdivisions as Ta hag myut. They apply the same term to themselves. The word is derived from Tá hak, a shadow; hence people of the shade or shadow as distinguished from the Su hi ni myut, or people of the light or sunshine. These people are but little influenced by contact with the white traders, who apply to them the term “ Northerners.” Their habits and customs are primitive, and many appear to be entirely distinct from the customs of their neighbors south and east. Huge mountain spurs and short ranges ramify in every direction, forming deep valleys and ravines, along which these people must travel to reach the trading station of Fort Chimo of the Ungava district, or else to Fort George of the Moose district.
The distance to the former is so great that only three, four, or five sledges are annually sent to the trading post for the purpose of conveying the furs and other more valuable commodities to be bartered for ammunition, guns, knives, files and other kinds of hardware, and tobacco. Certain persons are selected from the various camps who have personally made the trip and know the trail. These are commissioned to barter the furs of each individual for special articles, which are mentioned and impressed upon the mind of the man who is to effect the trade. The principal furs are those of the various foxes. Among them are to be found the best class of silver foxes, and wolverines and wolves. Those to be sent are procured the previous winter, and when the snow falls in November or early December the line of sleds starts out for the trading post. The sled which represents the wants of the more western of these Innuit speeds to where the second may be, and they repair to the place of meeting with the third, and thus by traversing the line of coast the arctic caravan is made up. Provisions are supplied by the wayside, and when all is in readiness a southern course is travelled until the frozen morasses on the south of the hills are reached. Thence the course is toward Leaf river and across to Fort Chimo. By the last week of April or the first week of May the visitors are expected at the trading post. They usually bring with them about two-fifths of all the furs obtained in the district; indeed, the quantity often exceeds this amount. They seldom remain longer than the time needed to complete their bartering, as the rapidly melting snow warns them that each day of delay adds to their labor in returning.
The homeward journey is more frequently made along the coast, as there
the snow is certain to remain longer upon the ground. It is not infrequent that these travellers experience warm weather, which detains them so long that they do not reach the end of their journey until the middle of summer or even until the beginning of the next winter. Many of the Innuit who accompany these parties have never seen white men until they arrive at Fort Chimo; women are often of the party. These people are usually tall and of fine physique. The men are larger than the average white man, while the women compare favorably in stature with the women of medium height in other countries.
They have quite different customs from those of their present neighbors. Their language is dialectically distinct ; about as much so as the Malimyut differ from the Kaviagmyut of Norton Sound, Alaska. The Tahagmyut have a rather harsh tone; their gutturals are deeper and the vowels usually rather more prolonged. . . . .
The third subdivision comprises the Innuit dwelling on the eastern shore of Hudson bay, between latitudes 53° and 58°.
The number of these Innuit could not be definitely ascertained, as they trade, for the most part, at Fort George, belonging to the Moose district. Each year, however, a party of less than a dozen individuals journey to Fort Chimo for the purpose of bartering furs and other valuables. Those who come to Fort Chimo are usually the same each year. In language they differ greatly from the Koksoak Innuit, inasmuch as their speech is very rapid and much harsher. Many of the words are quite dissimilar, and even where the word has the same sound it is not unusual that it has a meaning more or less different from that used by the Koksoak Innuit. As these people have been long under the advice and teachings of the missionary society of London, it is to be expected that they, especially those nearer the trading station, are more or less influenced by its teachings. Their customs differ somewhat from the other Innuit, though this is due in a great measure to the impossibility of procuring the necessary food, and skins for garments, unless they are constantly scouring the plains and hills for reindeer or the shore for seals and other marine creatures.
These people are called by their neighbors and themselves I'tivi'myut. Iti'vuk signified the other, farther, distant side (of a portion of land) ; hence, the word Itivimyut means people of the other side. The northern Itivimyut are probably the most superstitious of all the Innuit dwelling in the region under consideration. . . .
In former years the Innuit extended entirely around the shore of Hudson Bay. Now there is a very wide gap, extending from the vicinity of Fort George, on the eastern coast, to the vicinity of Fort Churchill, on the western coast. At the present time the Innuit occupy the areas designated in these remarks. That they formerly extended along the Atlantic coast far to the south of their present limit is attested by an abundance of facts.
The Innuit of the eastern shore of Hudson bay, the Itivimyut, informed me that the Innuit dwelling on the islands of Hudson bay, more or less remote from the mainland to the east, are termed Ki'giktag'myut, or island people.